Skip to content

Report: NFL pressured ESPN to abandon PBS concussion project

otl_e_logofl_b1_203

On Thursday, ESPN cut the cord on its much-hyped PBS Frontline partnership regarding concussions in pro football.  In so doing, ESPN denied that it had received any pressure from the NFL.

On Friday, of course, a report has emerged that the NFL did indeed pressure ESPN to quit biting the hand it’s currently feeding more than $1 billion per year.

According to James Andrew Miller of the New York Times, “two people with direct knowledge of the situation” contend that the NFL placed pressure on ESPN to exit the joint venture with PBS.  Per the report, Commissioner Roger Goodell was directly involved in the effort.

It’s the second time less than a decade that the league has pushed Bristol when it comes to football-related programming.  ESPN pulled the plug on the fictional show Playmakers based on clear and obvious nudging from the NFL.

“Everyone feels that it’s a rather gross mischaracterization of our sport,” former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said regarding Playmakers in September 2003.  Not long after that, the show was gone.

Given the Playmakers example and prior ESPN reports on head injuries, we should have seen this one coming.  Last November, ESPN recklessly overstated the relevance of past rulings of the league’s disability board regarding concussions, erroneously suggesting that the decisions provided a “smoking gun” for the concussion lawsuits.

The tipping point may have come this weekend, when Steve Fainaru and John Barr (whose flimsy-yet-breathless report last year regarding the Saints and wiretapping has never been corroborated) raised questions about Dr. Eliot Pellman, former head of the league’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee.  Apart from continuing to ignore that the NFLPA (and thus, necessarily, all players) had a seat at the MTBI Committee’s table, the article points out that Dr. Pellman was at one point Tagliabue’s physician — and argues that this undermines Pellman’s credibility.

It’s just as likely, however, that Pellman will seem even more credible in the eyes of any jury that ever resolves the concussion cases.  If the Commissioner was willing to entrust his own health to Pellman, then maybe Pellman wasn’t a complete quack.  The ESPN report doesn’t mention that fairly obvious possibility.

The relentless effort to dig up dirt, which arguably was on display in connection with Barr’s effort to join in the Saints feeding frenzy of 2012, prompted NFL spokesman Greg Aiello to accuse an ESPN reporter of “being on a witch hunt.”

If that’s what the NFL believed, it’s no surprise that the NFL communicated privately to ESPN a message similar to the one that was conveyed publicly by Tagliabue nearly 10 years ago.

That’s not to say an NFL broadcast partner should shy away from criticism.  Even though we partner with NBC, we’ve previously pushed the league on flaws regarding the in-game procedures for spotting players who may have had concussions and properly assessing whether they should return to play.  To this day, the league has failed in our opinion to do enough to identify players with potential concussions and thoroughly examine them before letting them play again.  But there’s a difference between fair criticism and over-the-top twisting of facts in the hopes of advancing an agenda.

The November 2012 report regarding the disability awards and the more recent look at Dr. Pellman feel more like a gratuitous exercise in “gotcha,” and not a balanced examination of reality.  For that reason, it’s hard to fault the NFL for asking ESPN why it would treat a business partner this way.

Permalink 53 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Rumor Mill, Top Stories
yo

Telesco, Caldwell join Wednesday’s PFT Live

PFTLive

Another three-hour edition of PFT Live of NBC Sports Radio gets rolling at the top of the hour, and we’ll continue to process the moves made by the various NFL teams by talking to the guys responsible for making those moves.

Wednesday’s show features visits from Chargers G.M. Tom Telesco and Jaguars G.M. Dave Caldwell.

Both teams are hoping to parlay top-five draft picks into a return to the postseason, jockeying for position in a couple of challenging divisions in the AFC.

Shows from earlier in the week included discussions with Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, Washington G.M. Scot McCloughan, and Browns executive V.P. of football operations Sashi Brown. To hear them, download the shows at iTunes or audioBoom.

Better yet, subscribe to the podcast. Or tune in to the live show at 6:00 a.m. ET at Sirius 213, XM 202, NBCSportsRadio.com, the NBC Sports Radio app, or any of the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Leon Hall visiting Falcons

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Leon Hall on the field in the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/David Kohl) AP

Cornerback Leon Hall is making another free agent trip a day after visiting the New York Giants.

Per multiple reports , Hall is visiting the Atlanta Falcons.

Hall, 31, is recovering from back surgery after appearing in 14 games for the Cincinnati Bengals last season. Hall has spent his entire nine-year career in Cincinnati after being a first round pick in 2007.

Hall has also visited the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys this offseason.

Hall could help provide a veteran replacement in the Falcons’ secondary with Jalen Collins suspended for the first four games of the season.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Seahawks to start out Germain Ifedi at right guard

Germain Ifedi AP

The Seattle Seahawks drafted three offensive linemen last weekend in hopes of infusing some young talent and depth into a unit that struggled to find its footing until midseason last year.

Texas A&M’s Germain Ifedi was the highlight of the class for Seattle. The Seahawks selected Ifedi with the 31st overall selection to conclude the first round on Thursday night.

The Seahawks see Ifedi as a player capable of playing both tackle and guard on the right side of the offseason line. When he gets to Seattle for their rookie mini-camp this weekend, general manager John Schneider said he’ll begin in NFL career at right guard for the Seahawks.

“As of right now he’s going to line up at right guard and (J’Marcus) Webb will be our right tackle,” Schneider said Wednesday, in an interview with Mitch Levy on Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle. “That’s a pretty big right side right there. We’re going to put him at right guard and if he needs to play some tackle, he’ll play some tackle.”

Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll had initially send after making the pick that Ifedi would begin at right tackle. Offensive line coach Tom Cable said he believes Ifedi can be an “outstanding tackle.” But for now, he’s going to be a guard.

“He’s a monster of a man. He’s a great kid. He’s got a ton of length, a ton of power,” Schneider said of their thoughts on Ifedi. “They’re playing in that spread offense (at Texas A&M) so there’s some things he needs to clean up from a technique standpoint, but he’s such a hard worker and such an intelligent guy that we think that there’s no question he’ll be able to do that. Just a really, really tough-minded individual.”

Seattle’s line will look significantly different from the group that finished last season. Garry Gilliam has been moved from right tackle to left tackle to replace the departed Russell Okung. Ifedi and Webb slot in on the right side of the line to replace J.R. Sweezy and Gilliam. Third-round pick Rees Odhiambo from Boise State will compete with Justin Britt at left guard, and sixth-round pick Joey Hunt will battle Patrick Lewis at center.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Josh Norman attributes ugliness with Odell Beckham to the reality of football

Zz1lNzgyZWIzYmQ4YWQ0YTcwOTM3ZTJmN2EyZTlkN2FmYw== AP

As Washington cornerback Josh Norman prepares to face guys like Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant twice per year, Norman explains in an item for The Players Tribune the mindset that often results in acrimony on the field.

It traces, for Norman, to having his bologna stolen by older brothers at a time when Norman was too young and small to do anything about it.

Football isn’t unfair,” Norman says. “Life is what’s unfair. Getting your bologna taken is what’s unfair. Football is barbaric. It’s animalistic. It’s my will versus your will. It’s all those things. But it’s not unfair. That’s why I love it.”

He then used that mindset to explain the protracted, out-of-control, back and forth between Norman and Beckham from last December.

“When Odell and I went at one another last year, people got mad,” Norman said. “Imagine that. People who watch this sport every Sunday and say they love it actually pretended to be offended. They don’t see the beauty in it. They don’t see the truth.

“The guy lining up across from me, he knows the truth. There are a lot of people who watch this game, or who are paid to commentate on it, who might not understand the true reality. They might get offended. They might think we’re animals.”

That’s where Norman’s essay is inconsistent. He calls football “animalistic,” but then takes issue with those who thought Norman and Beckham were behaving like “animals.”

The broader flaw in Norman’s argument is that football routinely is played without over-the-top misbehavior from players who took their aggression well beyond the whistle or who engaged in clearly unnecessary acts during a play. If 99.5 percent of all players can do it, Norman and Beckham can, too.

“Odell and I, we know the truth,” Norman said. “Anybody who makes it to this level knows it. The truth is that on the football field, he’s trying to steal my bologna, and I’m trying to steal his.”

That’s fine, but the officials — and the league office — will be taking everyone’s bologna this season if folks can’t control their emotions and confine the exercise of ill will to actions necessary to the overriding objectives of the game. It’s clear that the NFL won’t stand for a repeat of last year’s outcome, and it’s likely that the officials and the powers-that-be at 345 Park Avenue will be paying close attention to everything that happens between Norman and Beckham in 2016, and beyond.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Colts waive linebacker Obiora

Wild Card Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

The Colts on Tuesday waived linebacker Eze Obiora.

Obiora had signed with the Colts in January. He had played two seasons with the Sioux Falls Storm of the IFL and was impressive enough there to earn an NFL shot. The Nigerian-born Obiora grew up in England and played two seasons of college football at Southern Illinois.

The transaction wire has been busy across the league following last week’s draft. The Colts on Monday announced that 21 undrafted free agents agreed to terms with the team.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

With rookie HOF visit scrapped, Irvin thinks valuable lesson lost

2010 Pro Bowl Getty Images

The NFL’s drafted rookies visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame before attending their first pro training camp over the last eight years came from a suggestion made by Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin.

Now that the NFL has eliminated the annual rookie symposium in favor of events and seminars held at individual team facilities, the Hall of Fame visit has also been scrapped. Citing the same reasons that sparked the idea, Irvin told the Canton Repository he thinks the league is making a mistake in taking away what he considers to be a very valuable history lesson.

“I don’t like it,” Irvin said. “You’re asking young men to respect and appreciate the game, but how can they when a lot of them don’t play the game for the appreciation of the game or the history of the game? A lot of them play the game to escape their history, which is the ghetto.

“I originally thought about it as I watched the draft and saw all those kids crying and saying to their moms, ‘I’m going to take care of you.’ They are aligned with that. They know the history of their mom and how she sacrificed to get them there. They’re like, ‘I’m going to get you that house. I’m going to get you what you need now.’

“It’s no different here. If you get the (NFL) history and see the ones who gave you the opportunity to have this life, how can you not appreciate it? I think it’s important for athletes in the NFL or any sport to understand the gift they’ve been given.”

Under the most recent rookie symposium format, rookies were housed in a Cleveland suburb and visited the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Individual teams made arrangements to bring their rookies to Canton starting in 2008.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cordy Glenn gets $26.5 million fully guaranteed at signing

Justin Houston, Cordy Glenn AP

More than two months prior to the deadline for signing franchise-tagged players to long-term deals, the Bills and tackle Cordy Glenn converted his one-year franchise tender into a five-year contract.

Per a source with knowledge of the deal, Glenn receives $26.5 million fully guaranteed at signing, as part of a five-year, $65 million package. He’ll earn $19 million in the first year, and $30 million through year two.

The deal has another $9.5 million guaranteed for injury.

It’s the second highest full guarantee any offensive lineman has received, and it puts Glenn under contract with the Bills through 2020.

Permalink 11 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Second Circuit grants NFLPA’s request for more time in Brady appeal

Green Bay Packers v New England Patriots Getty Images

The NFL Players Association wanted more time to decide whether to file a petition for rehearing regarding the outcome of the federal appeal that reinstated Tom Brady’s four-game suspension. The NFL opposed the request.

On Tuesday, the request was granted. As a result, the deadline has been extended from May 9 to May 23.

The union arguably didn’t need extra time to make a decision that, as a practical matter, could be made in a matter of minutes. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by seeking a rehearing before the full Second Circuit.

The subtext seems to be that the NFL suspects the union is delaying the volleyball game in the hopes that a final outcome will come as late as possible, potentially keeping Brady on the field for all of the 2016 season. Still, two extra weeks really won’t change much in the grand scheme of things — especially since the NFL needed four full months to complete the initial investigation into the alleged tampering with football air pressure.

Permalink 72 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cordy Glenn, Bills agree to five-year extension

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 15:  Cordy Glenn of the Buffalo Bills presents his team's MVP award during the NFL Launch of the Play 60 scheme at the Black Prince Community Hub on July 15, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills General Manager Doug Whaley said on Tuesday that the team was ready to get back to the negotiating table with several players they wanted to sign to contract extensions.

It didn’t take long for them to check off one of those boxes.

The agents for left tackle Cordy Glenn announced on Tuesday evening that their client has agreed to a five-year extension with the team. The Bills gave Glenn the franchise tag earlier this offseason — Glenn signed it shortly after — and had until July 15 to hammer out a multi-year deal.

Glenn was Buffalo’s second-round pick in the 2012 draft and he has started 57 straight games for the team. No financial details of the deal have come to light, but it’s a good bet that the Bills were able to lessen the $13.7 million cap hit they would have taken if Glenn played out the year under the tag.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore and quarterback Tyrod Taylor are the other players that the Bills would like to extend.

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Don Shula hospitalized, released

Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year Award Press Conference Getty Images

Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula was released from a hospital Tuesday after receiving overnight treatment.

A statement released by the family said Shula, 86, was hospitalized due to fluid retention and sleep apnea and said the family “is looking for a speedy recovery.”

NFL Network confirmed that Shula was treated and released.

Shula is the NFL’s winningest coach. He won two Super Bowls with the Dolphins and guided them to a perfect record in 1972.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. His son, Mike, is the offensive coordinator of the Panthers.

Permalink 15 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Contaminated meat led to positive PED test for Duane Brown last year

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The NFLPA sent a memo to players this week warning them to be cautious about eating meat in Mexico and China because some of it is contaminated by Clenbuterol, which is a banned substance under the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

It appears that a trip to Mexico by Texans tackle Duane Brown last year uncovered the issue. Dan Graziano and Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com report that Brown, who was suspended four games for a PED violation in 2010, tested positive last November after returning from a bye-week vacation with his wife. He faced a 10-game suspension as a repeat offender.

Brown appealed with the help of the NFLPA and receipts from meals showing he ate 10 burgers and two steaks while in Mexico. He was cleared in April of this year and his experience is one that the union would like other players to avoid.

The Texans and Raiders will be playing a game in Mexico City during the 2016 season. One would imagine that Brown will be laying off the beef during that visit.

Permalink 28 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Jaguars rookies won’t be doing much on the field at minicamp

Jacksonville Jaguars first-round draft pick Dante Fowler is tended to after being injured at the teams NFL football minicamp in Jacksonville, Fla., Friday, May 8, 2015. (Fran Ruchalski/The Florida Times-Union via AP) AP

The Dolphins won’t be the only NFL team approaching rookie minicamp differently this year.

They won’t even be the only NFL team in Florida approaching it differently this year. The Jaguars are joining them in altering the process to cut back on drills and other on-field work while devoting more time to meetings at what they’re calling a “rookie orientation.”

Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell says that he’d thought about different ways to handle rookie minicamp in the past and that the torn ACL that first-round pick Dante Fowler suffered on the first day of camp last year made it a more pressing issue.

“It’s never really made a lot of common sense to me,” Caldwell said, via the Associated Press. ”You always just crossed your fingers and hoped for the best. I think this gave us good reason to do it. Never did you think it would be something that would be season-ending, but even the little stuff. If a guy pulls a hamstring, then all of a sudden he spends the next six weeks rehabbing instead of getting better, stronger and in shape.”

The Broncos lost third-round tight end Jeff Heuerman to a torn ACL last year and coach Gary Kubiak recently called full-speed practices at minicamp for players who haven’t been on the field in some time “probably not the smartest thing to do.” Another serious injury or two in this year’s camps may have the Dolphins and Jaguars at the forefront of a trend around the league as it comes to handling the first NFL exposure for their rookie class.

Permalink 8 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Lions cut Pierce, Cave

Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Lions released center Braxston Cave and tight end Casey Pierce on Tuesday.

Cave broke into the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2013 with the Browns. He’s spent time on the practice squads of the Lions, Redskins, Patriots and Browns. He was promoted to the active roster by the Lions last December but didn’t play in a game.

Pierce signed with the Lions after last year’s draft and spent the 2015 season on the practice squad. He played in the Senior Bowl in 2015 after a standout career at Kent State.

Similar moves are being made around the league as teams clear roster spots for draft picks and new undrafted free agent signings.

Permalink 2 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Chiefs release Jimmy Wilson, Cameron Gordon

Jimmy Wilson, Adrian Peterson AP

The Chiefs released safety Jimmy Wilson and linebacker Cameron Gordon on Tuesday.

Wilson and Gordon signed with the Chiefs earlier in the offseason but were released as the Chiefs cleared roster space for draft picks and post-draft rookie signings.

Wilson signed a two-year, $4.85 million deal with San Diego in 2015 but was cut last December after making six starts. He’s played in 73 games, starting 27, and has five career interceptions and three career sacks. Wilson, a seventh-round pick in 2011, spent four years with the Dolphins before departing via free agency.

Gordon broke into the league as an undrafted rookie with the Patriots in 2014 and signed a futures contract with the Chiefs in January.

The Chiefs drafted three defensive backs — KeiVarae Russell, Eric Murray and D.J. White — last weekend, and in the sixth round selected outside linebacker Dadi Nicolas.

Permalink 1 Comment Feed for comments Back to top

Condon’s concern on Bradford: “There’s not really a competition”

Sam Bradford, Mario Addison AP

The most common response to the effort by Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford to get out of Philly after signing a two-year, $35 million contract has been to say that Bradford should simple embrace the opportunity to compete. Indeed, former NFL quarterback Brady Quinn (who was represented during his playing days by Bradford’s agent, Tom Condon) explained last week on PFT Live that Bradford simply isn’t accustomed to having to compete.

Condon has addressed the notion that Bradford should simply compete and, if successful, keep Carson Wentz on the bench. Condon explained on The Business of Sports with Andrew Brandt that the circumstances suggest that the deck is stacked in favor of Wentz.

“There’s not really a competition,” Condon said. “You’re holding the card until you’re replaced, and as far as the club is concerned, and I would guess the fans, the sooner, the better.”

Condon has a point. The last time the Eagles took a quarterback in round one, current coach Doug Pederson was the starting quarterback. He started nine games before yielding to then-rookie Donovan McNabb.

Rookie quarterbacks routinely are installed at the bottom of the depth chart, giving them a chance to accomplish something by working their way up the ladder — regardless of whether they objectively deserve to be elevated from No. 3 to No. 2 to, eventually, No. 1. The bigger the investment, the sooner the player ends up on the field.

“I know people say, ‘Well, why doesn’t he just compete and win the job?'” Condon said. “There is no real competition. If you’ve given up the draft choices [to trade up] and he’s the second pick in the draft, he’s playing. That’s all there is to it.

Condon reiterated that Bradford will continue to stay away in the hopes of having a chance to get to a team that wants him. Will Bradford offer to pay back any of his $11 million signing bonus to make that happen?

“I think I better hold off on any questions with regard to the cash,” Condon said.

Buried in that non-answer could be a message to the Eagles that perhaps Bradford would be willing to, for example, sacrifice all or part of the second installment of $5.5 million. (The first half already has been paid.)

Still, it’s one thing for the Eagles to eventually decide to move on from Bradford. It’s another for a different team to want him. Barring a season-ending injury to an entrenched starter, Bradford may not find another NFL team that is willing to give him the keys for, at a minimum, all of the 2016 season.

Permalink 51 Comments Feed for comments Back to top